Sunset Timings: Winter - 5:30 PM, Spring/Fall - 6 PM , Summer: 6:30 PM
1. Phnom Bakheng
Located at a height of 70 metres on top of a hill, Phnom Bakheng is the first mountain temple built in the Angkor Complex and is the most popular spot for sunsets. The temple remains open till 7, which means the tourists can watch the sunset from inside the temple. The gorgeous view of the countryside, forests, adjacent temples and the mystical atmosphere makes the climb worthwhile.
If you’re coming from Siem Reap you will have to enter from the left hand side of the road, just past Angkor Wat and before you get to Angkor Thom. The temple is substantially compact so only 300 visitors are allowed inside at a time. Because of the limit, if you wish to catch the sunset on time, get to the top of the hill approximately 1 hour before sunset time. You don't essentially have to be inside the temple to watch the sunset. Just outside the temple, you will find yourself standing at the viewing point which offers the picturesque sight of the sun sinking behind gigantic trees and a spectacular golden hour view of the Baray Reservoir.
2. Bayon Temple
Standing tall at the center of Jayavarman’s capital Angkor Thom, Bayon temple was the last stone temple structure built during the Khmer Empire. Following Jayavarman’s death, the temple was later modified accordingly by Theravada Kings. The temple is prominently known for its unique structure of huge smiling faces on each tower which represents the immense presence and power of Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII. At least a dozen smiling faces are seen at one glance which makes it a must see sunset spot in the whole of Angkor Complex. The light delicately falls over the smiling faces making them appear all mysterious and glowing. The outer walls of the temple feature a series of detailed bas-reliefs depicting historical events, wars and everyday life scenes from the Angkorian Khmer era.
The temple faces towards the east and so its buildings are set back to the west. Since the temple is situated at the center point, it is accessible from each of the gates at the cardinal points. It is preferably ideal to reach the temple by 4 as it closes at 5:30pm.
3. Pre Rup
Pre Rup is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, built with mountain rocks, laterites and sandstones combined. The name translates as ‘turning the body’ which refers to a Khmer cremation tradition in which the funeral was conducted in the temple where the ashes of the royals would be ritually rotated in every direction. Being an ancient Hindu temple, studies have found out that the South-West tower once contained a statue of Lakshmi, North-West contained a statue of Uma, South-East contained a statue of Vishnu and North-East contained a statue of Shiva. Pre Rup has 3 tiers of which the uppermost carries five lotus towers. The massive laterite and sandstone structure provides brilliant red and orange hues during sunsets, turning into the best panoramic view from Pre Rup. The sun setting from between the two towers makes it the most magical sight of the evening.
Make sure you leave on time from the other sites as Pre Rup is further away from the town near Phnom Bakheng. The temple is open till 7:00pm and falls south of the Eastern Reservoir. At a distance of 14 kms from Siem Reap, the temple is located on the large circuit loop. To get there, turn right when you reach Angkor Wat and go past Srah Srang towards the circuit loop. To avoid crowds make sure you reach before time and find a perfect spot for yourself at/near the temple. The area is large and offers different viewpoints to get the best shot of the sunset.
4. Srah Srang
Srah Srang is a reservoir dug in the mid-10th century by Kavindrarimathana, the Buddhist minister of Rajendravarman II which was later modified by Jayavarman VII in 1200. This 900 year old reservoir was dug as a bathing pool for royals and is still filled with water today. Srah Srang offers the most stunning sunset views of Angkor Wat with the tranquil reflections of tall trees falling over the waters along with the warm hues of the sunset. On the western edge of Srah Srang you will find a terrace adorned with naga balustrades, lions and Khmer carvings.
Srah Srang has a viewing platform right across Banteay Kdei which is popular and crowded during sunrise and sunset hours. To get to a lesser crowded viewpoint, head to the opposite end of Srah Srang which is close to Pre Rup for a spectacular sight. Since there are no temples located in this region, the landscape directly falls on the still water.
5. Angkor Wat Moat
Angkor Wat is surrounded by a 200m moat enclosing a perimeter of more than 5kms. This moat is dug 13 feet deep which has held the foundation strong for more than 900 years, preventing the groundwater levels to rise too high or fall too low.
Angkor Wat Moat offers not just another sunset. The best viewpoint can be experienced towards the East where the sun beautifully sets behind the Angkor Wat. Another gorgeous sight of the sunset is when the sun reflects on the moat waters outside the temple leaving you mesmerized. Once the temple is closed at 5:30pm, get to the east-side gate when coming from Siem Reap and take a right at the T intersection in front of Angkor Wat. Turn towards the corner of the east-side and you will be in perfect position to experience the blissful sunset.
6. Angkor Thom Moat
The south gate of Angkor Thom is at a distance of 7.2 km from Siem Reap and 1.7 km north from the main entrance of Angkor Wat. The 8m high walls are flanked by a moat enclosing an area of 9 km, with 3 km long walls each.
Head to Angkor Thom Wat to witness the sky’s everchanging red, yellow and orange hues. The reflecting sunset is best viewed from the south gate of the moat where you can not only see the sunset, but also the reflecting images of the surrounding statues.
A few tips while visiting this UNESCO World Heritage site would be to always expect crowds at any hour of the day. Therefore, plan your visit accordingly and reach the site an hour prior. Tuk-tuks from Siem Reap will drop you right in front of the site.